Due to the unprecedented worldwide emergency, Play is expediting reviews to enable official apps intended to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to publish on the Google Play Store. Google takes this responsibility very seriously, and in the interest of public safety, information integrity and privacy, only specific COVID-19 apps that meet the requirements below will be allowed on the Google Play Store.
What apps are subject to COVID-19 restrictions?
Apps that are subject to these requirements include, but may not be limited to:
- Apps that use, approximate or leverage coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, or related keywords in their Google Play Store listing metadata.
- Apps that provide medical, treatment, vaccine, testing, or other related information specifically for COVID-19.
- Apps that support COVID-19-related response, containment, research, or education/training efforts.
- Apps that support services used to respond specifically to COVID-19, for example, apps that provide social support (food stamps, payment), healthcare, loans, etc., specifically in response to COVID-19.
Eligible COVID-19 app categories1. Official Governmental apps: Eligible for COVID-19 resource portions of the Google Play Store
In the interest of connecting users to authoritative information and services, only COVID-19 apps published or commissioned by an official government entity are permitted to be featured in COVID-19 resource portions of the Google Play Store.
In the interest of protecting user safety, only the following categories of apps are eligible to use COVID-19 or other related keywords and marketing in their Google Play Store app listing:
- Official governmental apps as defined in section (1) above, or
- Apps published by, or in direct affiliation with:
- a healthcare system or provider (e.g. CVS Health, UK National Health Service, UnitedHealth Group, Kaiser Permanente, French national healthcare system, Netcare (South Africa), One Medical, etc.);
- a nationally recognized medical or epidemiological research organization deeply rooted in medical research (including nationally recognized medical schools). (The medical or epidemiological research organization or government research, should have approval from a registered governing body (for example, Institutional Review Board in the US, or the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK). In case of dispute, a local or national government, or verifiable healthcare non-governmental organization (NGO) endorsement will be required.) or; apps directly endorsed by an official government entity.
* Please note for apps to meet the criteria in sub-section (b) above, the app must be directly published by or in direct partnership with the one of the entities (e.g. the authorizing institution or organization is referenced, with full permission, in the app’s title, logo, or Google Play Store description). Endorsement by a non-government entity alone does not meet the qualification. (e.g., an app endorsed by staff at a medical school would not qualify if that app is not published by or in direct partnership with the medical school).
All other apps may use COVID-19 related keywords and related terms in the in-app experience. For non-medical related apps, references to COVID-19 are limited to non-health related claims (e.g. opening hours changes, sharing tips on activities to do at home, providing commentary on the economic/social impacts of COVID-19, etc.). These apps may not include health claims (e.g. prevention methods, treatments, vaccines).
1. Submit proof of eligibility via the Advance Notice form
To speed up the review process, before submitting your eligible app in the Play Console, please use the advance notice form to submit proof that your app meets the criteria of sections 1 or 2 above.
Examples of sufficient proof include:
- A detailed communication, on official letterhead of the relevant government entity or organization, that includes the specific title and package name of the app.
- Where applicable, healthcare organizations should also provide their national registration number such as NPI (US), NIN (in India), etc.
2. Privacy requirements
All Covid-19 apps must strictly comply with all Google Play Policies, including but not limited to the following requirements:
- If your app accesses, collects, uses, or shares personal or sensitive user data, including any functionality or data regulated by dangerous or runtime permissions (including location, addressbook, BSSID, BLE, photos, microphone, health sensors), the app must meet our prominent disclosure and consent requirements, prior to beginning collection or handling of the personal or sensitive user data.
- If subsequent versions of your app collect new types of personal or sensitive user data, you must re-prompt users with a notification and rationale behind the new data being collected.
- Apps that serve a user need in addition to a COVID-19 response (for example, multi-purpose governmental apps or “telehealth” apps) may only use the data acquired for COVID-19 related purposes in conjunction with the app’s user-facing purpose(s).
- For example, it should be clear to the user the connection between the app’s core functionality and the collection of COVID-19 related data.
- If this requirement is currently unmet, you must modify the existing app to meet the above requirement so collection and use of COVID-19 related data is clearly part of the core purpose of the app, and you must clearly communicate this change to existing app users before the data is collected, for example, by including a prominent in-app disclosure prior to collecting the new COVID-19 related data. Alternatively, you can release a dedicated COVID-19 related app.
- Apps must handle all personal or sensitive user data securely, including transmitting it using modern cryptography (for example, over HTTPS).
3. App visibility and user awareness
- Contact Tracing apps and apps that track or monitor infected or exposed individuals for the purpose of COVID response or mitigation must clearly disclose this functionality in their Play Store listing. Apps that add contact tracing functionality to a preexisting app must meet the app requirements as listed above, including proof of eligibility, privacy features, and prominent disclosure of available contact tracing functionality to existing users.
- Apps should not be headless. Apps must display a clearly identifiable icon in the app tray, device app settings, notification icons, etc.
- Apps must display a persistent device notification to the user using one of the following two methods depending on if the app runs in the background or foreground:
- For apps that collect information in the foreground or use foreground service:
- App must display a user-facing persistent device notification when the app is running and capable of automatically collecting this information (e.g., app is listening for BLE handshakes, app is collecting location, etc.)
- For apps that collect information when running as a background service:
- App must display a daily user-dismissible notification informing the user of the collection/polling/handling of this information.
- You may allow users to instead opt into weekly notifications (via in-app checkbox or settings), however, the default setting must be a daily notification.
- For apps that collect information in the foreground or use foreground service:
4. API requirements
In accordance with Google Play’s Device and Network Abuse policy, your app may not access or use any API in violation of their terms.
5. Editorial and quality requirements
In accordance with Google Play policies pertaining to Sensitive Events, Misrepresentation, and Deceptive Behavior, all apps offering COVID-19 related content must not contain or perpetuate -- conspiracy theories, misleading claims, “miracle cures” or dangerous treatments, or any patently false or unverifiable information pertaining to COVID-19 (including authorities coordinating COVID-19 response), regardless of app categorization.
App review and visibility
Due to the extremely urgent and sensitive nature of distributing apps related to COVID-19 response efforts, there may be an increased level of enforcement, pursuant to the terms of the Developer Distribution Agreement, as well as the Enforcement Policy, in an effort to ensure the safety of users and the Google Play ecosystem. Developers are responsible for conducting extra due diligence to ensure that their apps are fully policy compliant at all times.
We will make every effort to ensure that apps being used in the COVID-19 response efforts remain on the Google Play Store, barring a privacy, disinformation, or user harm risk that outweighs the public benefit. In cases where an app is found to have a less serious policy violation and presents a compelling public health benefit, it may be allowed to continue distribution on the Google Play Store while the violations are being remedied. During this period, these apps may not be eligible for promotion on Google Play, including inclusion in dedicated COVID-19 resource portions of the Google Play Store.